MINA McQUHAE is following in an illustrious line of previous winners as the latest recipient of the Geoff Roberts Trophy.
The award is made by the Southport and District Golf Association to a promising young golfer in the district.
The 14 year-old’s success is Hesketh Golf Club’s 11th in the 24-year history of the award.
Previous holders from the club include present European Tour players Lee Slattery and Matthew Baldwin, who have both climbed to inside the top 100 players in the rankings.
Mina has already made her mark on Lancashire golf, having won the Girls Millenium Trophy in both 2010 and 2011, narrowly missing out on the treble when she finished runner-up this year.
She took up the game after going to the driving range with dad Peter and thinking “I can do better than that!”
Mina now plays regularly for her club’s junior team and did not lose a match in the SDGA league this season as Hesketh claimed their first title in 20 years after a close final against Southport and Ainsdale.
She was also chosen to represent Lancashire Girls at a Northern Counties tournament in Newcastle.
In just 12 months her handicap has come down from 23 to 14, which she puts down not only to regular practice sessions and matches, but to the patient instruction of Scott Astin, the head PGA pro at Hesketh.
Explained Mina, who lives at Holmeswood, near Ormskirk: “As well as working with me on the range, Scott uses video analysis of my swing so I get a clearer picture of my swing plane and angles. This means I have something to focus on when I practice.”
Her immediate ambition is to get her handicap down to single figures next summer, adding: “If I remain fully committed to my lessons and practice I do feel I can reach that by the end of next season.”
Other ambitions for the year ahead include playing Royal Birkdale and entering some national competitions to build up her experience of the big events.
Mina is also a keen netball player and captains her school side at Bishop Rawsthorne, while also playing for Leyland in the Lancashire League. But she believes that golf is a sport that can be enjoyed by the girls just as much as the boys.
“It’s not about how far you can hit the ball, there’s lot more to it than that,” says Mina, who lists Rory McIlory, Phil Mickleson and Michelle Wie among her favourite players. “Picking the right club and deciding the right play is a lot more important, so you are not at a disadvantage.
“It’s a good way of getting fresh air and exercise and in a round there will always be at least one shot that you will want to tell people about.
“The Lancashire Ladies have a great set up for girl golfers at any level and they are very supportive with lots of competitions and training days. I’ve been a member since I was 10.”
On her new award, Mina added: “It’s an honour and a privilege to be recognised by the Southport and District Golf Association with such a prestigious award. I only hope I have as a successful time in golf as some of the past winners of the trophy.”
The trophy was originally awarded by Southport University School Old Boys Association as part of the White Brothers’ sporting awards for golf, football, swimming and tennis, which were conceived by the late Harold 'Farmer' White, a member of Hesketh GC.
The trophy was donated by Geoff Roberts, a master at the school and a member of Southport and Ainsdale GC. Geoff won the English Amateur in 1951 and the Lancashire Amateur in 1953 and 1963.
SDGA Executive Secretary Keith Hick secured the trophy for the Association following the demise of the White Brothers’ Trophy and today the award is administered by SDGA U-18 section secretary Neil Dalton.
The criteria for the award, presented annually, extends beyond being nominated as the outstanding young golfer of the year and includes extras such as leadership, personal qualities and recognition by golf’s governing bodies.
Mina’s name was put forward by Gary Hible, Hesketh junior organiser, who described her as a role model.
She joined the club four years ago after attending Sunday morning junior coaching sessions with assistant pros Martin Edge and Mike Kanski, who is now a specialist putting coach.
Other Hesketh winners of the Trophy include Kanski himself, James Marshall, Alan Baldwin, Grahame Sutcliffe, Andrew Marsh, Matthew Cox, David Collinson and Luke Rimmer.